According to theThe Ryeland Flock Book Society, "The Ryeland Sheep originated in Herefordshire and is one of the oldest breeds of sheep in the UK. They became known as Ryelands because they were developed in the rye growing areas or rye landsand and were used to graze over the newly emerging rye to thicken it up and increase the yield."
"By the early 20th Century Ryeland sheep had almost died out. The Ryeland Society was established in 1903 to help maintain and promote the breed. Prize winning Ryelands were bred on the Berrington Hall Estate in Herefordshire in the 1950's and Ryeland Sheep were exported to Australia and New Zealand. However, by the 1970's the breed was in danger once more. This time the Rare Breed Survival Trust came to the rescue and now Ryelands have minority breed status. Today, the Ryeland Sheep is popular amongst smallholders and consistently wins prizes at agricultural shows and smallholder events. The quality of the breed is gaining increased recognition and Ryelands are now also exported across Europe."
Appearance / health:
Ryeland pedigree sheep must be white throughout.
However, according to theThe Ryeland Flock Book Society , "Ryeland sheep sometimes produce coloured lambs as the result of the expression of recessive genes. These coloured Ryelands have no gene for whiteness and so, when bred together, produce coloured lambs. Fleece colours vary from palest silver through many shades of grey to black. Occasionally fawn or dark brown may occur and the body colour may be uniform or spotted or patched. The Ryeland Flock Book Society set up a Coloured Ryeland Register in 1989, allowing members who were interested in these sheep to register them. The Coloured Ryeland Group of the RFBS was formed in 1996 to cater for the interests of Coloured Ryeland Breeders."
One of the most common ailments among sheep is a viral skin disease called soremouth or “orf.” Ringworm or “club lamb fungus” is a rash also common among sheep. And much like “mad cow disease,” sheep can have a similar neurological ailment called “scrapie.” Sheep health issues should be addressed by a qualified veterinarian. Good health is promoted by sanitary habitat conditions and proper nutrition.
Behavior / temperament:
Sheep are herd animals that rely on staying together as a flock to protect themselves from predators. They are highly sensitive to predators because they are basically “prey animals.” They sense the presence of threat from several hundred feet away (they are able to twist and turn their ears to detect potential danger) and instinctively flee instead of fight or attack. While fleeing, sheep run in a winding pattern to be able to see what is behind them.
As domesticated animals, sheep make good pets because they are docile and easily connect with humans, especially lambs that are bottle-fed. Miniature breeds and sheep that have hair instead of fur make ideal pets. Raising pet sheep is a popular project in the 4-H youth organization.
Housing / diet:
Sheep are grazing animals and do well living their entire lives outdoors. They get sufficient exercise and fresh air out in the field. They do need shelter from bad storms and unusually hot days. Many sheep keepers install field structures to provide shade, for example, hutches, domes, carports, and makeshift sheds. A common shade structure is a hoop house, like an open hangar or a greenhouse, which has a metal arched frame covered with tarp or other heavy-duty fabric.
Some sheep owners keep their flock in a barn or similar enclosure to protect them from predators. These enclosures must have very good ventilation because moisture and poor air conditions lead to the sheep’s poor health.
For warmth and comfort, bedding material should be provided. The best bedding is absorbent, clean, and dry. Some options are straw, wood shaving, sawdust, corncobs, dried corn stalks, peat, hemp, paper, and alfalfa hay. Preference is determined by cost, availability, convenience, and type of sheep. Wool sheep will not appreciate sawdust because it gets in their fleece. Paper is highly absorbent but difficult to manage in the field.
Lambs start with their mother’s milk and a light diet of pasture grass at two weeks old. After weaning the lambs from ewe’s milk at six weeks old, they can start eating dry feed of grains (wheat, oats, barley, cottonseed, corn), soybean and peanut hulls, and hay. The main diet of sheep is fresh grass and other forage and pasture vegetation. The pasture must be fertile and large enough to support the grazing of sheep for about seven hours a day (morning and afternoon). Fresh water must be constantly available, especially during the warm months and if the diet is mostly dry hay. Supplements are recommended, and must be given in the middle of the day to balance the sheep’s food intake.
wool, Ryeland fleece, smallholders, Good allrounder, smaller farms
Lemster Ryeland wool, small market town, typical whitish color, work dogs
If they're good enough for Queen Elizabeth I ...
I learned how to spin wool on holiday one year and soon after got my first spinning wheel. Of course after that I was into all things sheep.
I'm in the UK and [officially] all sheep owners have to sell their fleeces to the British Wool Marketing Board. This means that they only get about 50p (75c) per fleece, which is ridiculous. So smallholders and hobby farmers tend to sell their fleeces to hobby spinners like me.
I got to know several smallholders and one recommended Ryeland fleeces, saying that if I ever heard of any to pounce on them, as they were a fabulous short-woolled breed.
Not long after, we visited an open farm and, passing a paddock, were greeted by a HUGE furry faced sheep, eye-to-eye. She was standing with her front legs on the fence. It was a Ryeland and the most ridiculously friend sheep I have ever met. She and her sister were star attractions at the farm, popular with visitors, especially children. I was hooked.
I then got to know some at local sanctuary where I helped out. They were brought in when their owner had to sell up and didn’t want them to go to the abbatoir. They are adorable to look after and will try to ‘help’ when you’re trying to clean their house!
I give talks about the animals so studied Ryelands to enable me to tell visitors about them. They are one of the oldest breeds in the UK and have been known since the 1300s. In the area where they lived there was a lot of rye growing. So that became their name.
The superiority of the breed was quickly recognized by other countries and they were exported – and continue to thrive – in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, North America, Canada, South Africa, Russia, Germany, France, Italy & Portugal. In Australia a Ryeland ram is often used with Merino sheep - further proof of the quality of the Ryeland fleece, you wouldn't want to dilute the fineness of a Merino!
They are docile – to put it mildly! – and very fertile. You don’t want to pasture a ram anywhere near Ryeland ewes unless you want to breed, he’ll find a way in and they’ll produce masses of lambs!
Their fleece is beautiful to spin, one of the best of the British breeds. A full fleece can be quite heavy. They are generally the typical whitish color that most sheep come in, but there are colored varieties - silver and brownish/black.
They were always considered to be a wool breed but have since been used for meat. One of their unusual characteristics is that they can survive even when their feed isn’t top quality.
Another characteristic is that they can live in wet areas as they are quite resistant to footrot. This surprises me because generally the sheep that have the best fleeces are quite prone to footrot (e.g. the Merino).
The first Ryelands were smaller than the ones we know now. Even though they are a bit bigger, they are still a wonderful sheep for smallholders, being so docile and undemanding about food. They can live quite happily on grass alone, without supplements, even when lambing. In fact, some breeders caution against over-feeding in order to avoid overly-large lambs (which can be difficult to give birth to).
Queen Elizabeth I loved Ryelands for their wool. She would only wear stockings made from Lemster Ryeland wool (Lemster being short for Leominster, a small market town). As a spinner, Ryeland is my choice of wool. You get much more from a Ryeland fleece than you do from others, because they have heavily wooled legs, as well as head, neck, and body. I find that the wool from the legs is almost as good as the wool from the back.
I don’t have my own sheep – yet! – but when I do, Ryelands will be the first ones I choose..
From MichUK Jun 12 2013 10:11AM